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Brash stands down

Published: 1:11PM Thursday November 23, 2006 Source: One News/Newstalk ZB

National Party leader Don Brash has resigned from his position.

He made the announcement at a news conference on Thursday afternoon, and thanked his wife, chief of staff and all those who have advised him in his three years as party leader.

While he has made his share of mistakes Brash has rebuilt National. 

Under Bill English the party won just 27 seats at the 2002 election, but under Brash's leadership it won 48 seats and nearly took power.
"Over the last three years it's been a great honour to be the tenth leader of the National party and I take a great deal of satisfaction in the progress we've made over that time," Brash said at a opress conference where he was expected to clear the way for a controversial book on National to be published.

The book by Nicky Hager was blocked by an injunction taken out last week by Brash, to stop stolen emails from being made public.  It contains some of those emails which Hager claims were leaked to him by party insiders.

Hager says the book will show the National Party was saying one thing to the public during last year's election campaign but doing the opposite.

Prior to the announcement a political commentator said even if the injunction was lifted the damage had already been done to Brash.

Matt McCarten predicted he would be gone before parliament finished for the summer as the party has gone from one crisis to another.

He said if Brash resigned it would make life a lot easier.

However Brash said he is not resigning as a result of Hager's book.

"I think that the president will be happy to confirm that I have been thinking about this for several weeks and I certainly was thinking about it as I flew to and from London earlier in the month," he said.

ONE News political editor Guyon Espiner was at the press conference and says Brash made the decision because the speculation and allegations that have been swirling around him have become a distraction for the party.

In the past week the attacks on Brash have been coming thick and fast.

Cabinet Minister Phil Goff said Brash was far from being the innocent and rather naive politician he was portrayed as.  He said he was a deeply cynical man who does not want his private actions contrasted with his public statements.

Brash said that such ongoing speculation is damaging to the National Party, and to its future prospects. 

"As most of you will recall, I let it be known before the election last year that, should National lose the election, I expected to step down as leader.  But it has become increasingly clear in recent months that there's a growing expectation that I'll step down well ahead of the next election.

"Accordingly, as we approach the end of the parliamentary year, I've decided to resign as leader with effect from a special caucus meeting which I'll call for early next week."

Brash's official resignation is expected to take effect on Monday morning.

Espiner says no replacement has been anointed, but the front-runner is finance spokesman John Key who has been appearing in opinion polls as the most likely successor to Brash.

Brash says he is still interested in staying on as an MP but that will depend on whether he is offered a portfolio which he is willing to take on.

"If the new leader offers me the chance to be deputy associate spokesman for consumer affairs, then I will decline the offer but there are a number of senior portfolios that I would gladly work in," he says.

In last month's ONE News Colmar Brunton poll, Key had 11% support as party leader, climbing up from just 5% support in the March poll.

Meantime, there was a suggestion on Thursday morning that finance spokesman John Key had secured the services of a PR firm to manage his image.

It comes amid the fuss over Hager's book, and the allegations it contains involving the National Party leaders including Key.

Cabinet Minister Clayton Cosgrove says the man touted as National's next leader is just trying to save his image and has a senior partner of a PR firm working full time on his behalf.

He is demanding Key front up and name the PR firm he has hired.  But National says Cosgrove is wrong.

There were also claims that the party had hired a leading law firm to defend it over matters involving parliamentary process.

Cosgrove says he has been told that the party has hired one of the country's top four law firms to defend them against a potential privileges complaint.

He is demanding to know who the firm is, and who is paying the bills.